September 18, 2015
Published in The Patriot Ledger September 19, 2015
It’s opening soon – “The Martian” starring Matt Damon. In the film, Damon plays the title character, but he’s not an alien. He’s a human astronaut stranded on Mars when the rest of his NASA crew evacuate the planet to return home, thinking Damon dead. He’s “The Martian” because he then has to find ways to survive alone on Mars. (more…)
July 9, 2013
Published in The Patriot Ledger June 22, 2013:
In 1969, when Neil Armstrong made the “giant leap for mankind” by stepping onto the moon, Vice President Spiro Agnew said that our “next major space goal should be a manned landing on Mars by the end of the century.” That didn’t happen. For over 40 years now, no humans have even ventured beyond low earth orbit, about 200 miles up, where the international space station now flies and the space shuttles formerly flew. (more…)
July 9, 2013
Published in The Patriot Ledger October 27, 2012:
It has now been forty years since we last landed men on the moon, but there’s excitement in space again. NASA’s rover Curiosity recently discovered an ancient streambed on Mars – an array of rounded rocks that clearly had been shaped by tumbling action in flowing water. This must have been an important discovery, because it received a few seconds of coverage on ABC News and other news outlets, almost as much as the day’s campaign news. (more…)
July 9, 2013
My blog "Space Shorts" features occasional articles of op-ed length (about 600 words) on space exploration published in The Patriot Ledger, a newspaper published in Quincy, MA. It started with a letter to the editor published October 6, 2012. Editor Amy MacKinnon liked the letter and from then on published my occasional articles. My goal in writing these articles for a general audience was to promote public interest in science in general and space exploration in particular. The letter that started it:
This is in response to a letter last week that, in view of all the other financial needs of the country, questioned the wisdom of spending money to send the rover Curiosity to Mars, a multi-year project estimated to cost about $2.5 billion. There are many justifications to include space exploration in our national budget.
First there are of course jobs, the key word nowadays. There are many thousands of jobs involved with NASA projects, including many jobs in industry and academe across the country as well as government jobs.
Second, it is well established that highly technical projects like Curiosity often provide spin-offs that advance other technologies, including communications, manufacturing, and medicine.
At least equally important, space projects are exciting to the imagination, and increase interest among the young in considering careers in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In our globally-competitive environment, that's an important and worthy goal on which NASA focuses.
The long-term scientific goals of the Mars projects are to improve our understanding of the origin of the planets and of life.
Perhaps the strongest justification for such projects is that they provide sustenance to the basic human instinct that drives all of science and much of human progress - curiosity.